This past February, a young man broke into and vandalized an Arkansas church, causing extensive damage.
Now, that same man believes that God was leading him to that church so he could be baptized there less than a year later.
On Feb. 28, Brenton Winn wreaked havoc inside Central Baptist Church in Conway, Arkansas.
Winn, 23, was clearly under the influence as he tried to break into a church bus located outside.
When his attempts at setting the bus on fire were fruitless, he smashed a glass door of the church building and spent two hours destroying around $100,000 worth of property.
Security cameras captured him setting the church’s family life center on fire, smashing computers and throwing a soundboard from the worship center balcony.
The church’s senior pastor, Don Chandler, could hardly believe the amount of damage that had been done once he arrived at the scene.
“I really don’t know what would possess a person to do this — maybe anger with God, maybe we were just too near to him at a point in time when he decided to break in and do something,” Chandler told KTHV at the time.
Thanks to images pulled from the security footage, local law enforcement were able to identify and arrest Winn the next day.
Before he was even arrested, however, the young man had already experienced grace.
“He’s already forgiven,” Chandler said before Winn was arrested. “And we’d love for him to come to church here one of these days and hear what we have to say about the Lord.”
The Lord can work in mysterious ways, and Winn now says he believes God led him to that specific church that night.
“If it had been any other church, I think I’d be sitting in prison right now,” he told Baptist Press.
The Monday following Winn’s arrest, Chandler pleaded on the young man’s behalf to the prosecutor, eventually suggesting time in rehab instead of prosecution.
“You can’t preach something for 50 years without practicing it, especially in front of your whole church,” Chandler said. “Had we not shown some grace to him, everything we’ve talked about and encouraged, would have gone by the wayside.”
“It was simply the right thing to do. This was not a hardened criminal. This was a young man who had made some mistakes. He was on drugs and alcohol when he did what he did. But he was redeemable.”
So when Winn’s case appeared in front of the judge, Winn was given a choice: face up to 20 years behind bars or enroll in a program at Renewal Ranch, a 12-month, faith-based rehab facility located outside of Conway.
Winn chose to go to Renewal Ranch and began hearing more about God during the program’s bible studies.
Residents of Renewal Ranch also attend church services each Wednesday night at Central Baptist Church, the same church Winn had vandalized.
During one of those services, Winn decided that he wanted follow Jesus and get baptized.
“I gave my heart to Christ that night,” he said.
“I used to think it was a coincidence [that I chose to break into the church that night], but now I call it confirmation that God is real, and He answers prayers. What was weighing on my heart was that I needed a relationship with Jesus Christ.”
According to Baptist Press, Winn was baptized at Central Baptist Church only six months after he broke into it by associate pastor Mike Lefler.
His story is a beautiful reminder of the power of God’s redemption.
“As I’m starting to understand how God works, I’ve realized I didn’t pick the church that night,” Winn said.
“God picked me.”
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